Why do we trust experts? I think the obvious answer is that it helps us live our lives practically. We trust the doctor’s advice on medicine because we don’t have the time or the knowledge to know which medicines to take. We don’t have time or the energy to check to see if the doctor has got it right. Thus, we say that a degree is enough to constitute an expert in that field. We put our trust in experts because they are seen as knowledgeable in that field. Thus, we go about our lives putting trust in these experts and we have no reason to doubt them (unless something’s fishy). This works not just in medicine, but in other fields like law, engineering, science, computers, food, and countless others–including philosophy. Even ideas are given to experts and if there’s something wrong with the idea, then we scrutinize it, critique it, and demur it to make sure that it’s on the right path. Now we don’t just doubt everything that’s given to us. But the point here is that trust is the important key element. We trust these experts because without experts, there would be no progress and we would spend the majority of our lives figuring out if these other people did their job correctly rather than living out our own lives doing our own specialty.
Many of you know that I mainly listen to lectures on my mp3 player. I usually listen to The Teaching Company. I highly recommend getting them. They’re a bit pricey, but I don’t know any library that doesn’t have them. I have learned a lot since listening to them and it has certainly increased my knowledge of the world. The last lecture I listened to was Modern Economic Issues. I can’t stand economics! I tried to take some classes in college, I really did but I just found it so boring. Yes, I understand that economics is something important to know. That’s why I wanted to listen to this lecture so that I can actually learn about it. At first, my expectations were pretty low. I thought I’d be extremely bored with it. I thought I had to concentrate harder just to understand the material. To my surprise, I actually liked it. It’s made me gain a new economics perspective. So what does this have to do with experts? The last lecture dealt with how to be happy and tying it up with economics. However, I was actually more intrigued with what the lecturer said about how professional economists recommend something, yet the public is ambivalent to do so. Alan Blinder states that, “Economists have the least influence on policy where they know the most and are most agreed; they have the most influence on policy where they know the least and disagree most vehemently.” So here’s what I’m getting at. These professional economists are experts. They know the field more than anyone and so it seems logical to put their trust into these people economically in order for us to progress and have better lives. So what issues were they?
1. Get rid of the penny: There is a consensus among economists for many years to get rid of the penny. The reason is because Americans don’t find value in it anymore. (We often tell the clerk that they can keep the penny, and there are pennies in the little compartment next to the cash register virtually everywhere.) Also, zinc makes up the majority to make the penny but the US Treasury says that zinc is getting so expensive that to make a penny costs more than what it’s worth. It costs more then one cent to make one cent, in other words.
2. Let bodily organs be open to the market: In 2007, about 97,000 patients waited for kidney transplants. Because the demand for these kidneys are so high, 70% of the patients will die just for waiting for a viable donor. The average wait time for a kidney is three years. Our economic system is based on supply and demand. We obviously can’t lower the demand for new kidneys (unless there’s some miracle that would cure these kidney disease), so the other option is to raise the supply. Now we do have people that donate their kidneys. But think about it, would you donate your kidney? Even though it’s a kind gesture, I’m sure most of you are thinking “no.” So the only incentive to donate your kidney is pure altruism. However, what if you donated your kidney for $10,000? (This is just a number I made up.) I think most of you would probably think about that option for a while. 70% of professional economists think this is a good idea.
3. Limit Subsidies to Sports Arenas: People say (or perhaps think) that having a sports arena will actually increase the local economy because it’s a nice tourist attraction and it puts the city on the map, it will have a multiplier effect where the economy will grow. However, professional economists are suspicious of these arguments. A study shows from 36 cities that have sports arenas and 12 other cities that don’t. There was no personal income growth for the cities that had the sports arenas. Another study shows that new stadiums and sports franchises actually reduce per capita income a bit in these cities. This is because the players, owners, and coaches–who receive the most money–don’t actually spend the money in that city. Thus, the economy won’t go up that much because they’re spending it elsewhere. 85% of professional economists agreed to limit subsidies to sports arenas.
So what gives? These are experts. They are supposed to know their stuff, but it seems that the public doesn’t want to follow this advice. Any reason for that? Or are we just too stubborn?